Berkeley targets underserved for disaster preparedness

Council Member Darryl Moore: “Having 70% of the caches in the hill districts is just not acceptable”

Berkeley’s City Council Tuesday night debated how the city’s disaster preparedness program has been disproportionately adopted in the hill districts, and left vulnerable — and generally poorer — districts in the flats far behind in terms of both training and allocation of emergency caches.

A report from the Disaster & Fire Safety Commission (DFSC) featured a map showing the heavy concentration of emergency caches in Districts 5 and 6, and a thin scattering in Districts 3 and 4. The caches are containers of equipment awarded to communities who have demonstrated a minimum level of readiness, which includes completing a certain amount of emergency training. There are currently 79 caches in total in the city’s neighborhoods.

The map you have on the screen is just depressing for me,” said District 2 Council Member Darryl Moore. “Having 70% of the caches in the hill districts for me is just not acceptable. It shows there’s something wrong with the plan. We need to rethink how we reach out to those folks.”

In a time of straitened budgets, the council found itself in an unusual position: a substantial funds surplus provides an opportunity to dramatically augment the disaster preparedness programs. In 2008, Berkeley voters approved Measure GG “to enable the City to keep fire stations open and improve emergency medical response and disaster preparedness.” According to reports at Tuesday’s meeting, GG has been effective in its aim. But GG generates about $3.6 million annually, and the existing set of GG-funded projects and activities consumes far less money. In fiscal year 2013, the fund will have a surplus of between $650,000 and $1.1 million.

The DFSC proposed to Council that two full-time positions be created: one in the Public Health Division dedicated to disaster preparedness in vulnerable and underserved populations, emphasizing South and West Berkeley; the other in the fire department, augmenting the efforts for neighborhood outreach and program maintenance. Additionally, the DFSC recommended an annual $70,000 for disaster preparedness training.

City staff additionally proposed annual funds to subsidize automatic gas shutoff valves, a debris box program, and program maintenance for existing caches. Staff also recommended a $300,000 fund reserve be maintained.

Council members supported the recommendations, but sought to increase the annual funds to $20,000 for shutoff valves, $25,000 for debris boxes, and an additional $15,000 for emergency caches. To fund the increases, council members agreed to reach the intended fund reserve over two years rather than one.

At the end of the evening, council members unanimously asked city staff to prepare a plan that could be implemented for the GG surplus. But on the way to that unanimity, tensions broke out between representatives of the hills and the flats.

“The Hayward fault doesn’t run through the middle of the city,” said District 8’s Gordon Wozniak. “It runs through district 6 and district 8. There may be reasons why you’d want more caches in some areas.”

Wozniak suggested that plans needed to be made in particular for residents who lived east of the fault, who could be cut off from many emergency efforts in the event of a major earthquake.

“This clock has been ticking for 150 years, and we’re lucky it hasn’t struck,” said District’s 3’s Max Anderson.  “The lives of people in the flatlands are just as valuable as the people in the hills.”

Anderson was particularly concerned that his district and other flatland districts had been shortchanged in the allocation of caches.

“The first caches were Cadillac caches,” he said. “But is it fair to distribute lesser caches in different parts of the city?”

Commission chair Lynn Zummo said that the “Cadillac caches” (which cost $13,000 each) had been distributed one per district. Since then, only pared down caches that cost about $3,300 had been distributed.

District 6’s Susan Wengraf cautioned that a focus on caches was missing the more important element of disaster preparedness.

“The focus here has been on the cache, but the focus should be on the training,” she said. “The cache is the award for the training.”

Anderson and council member Linda Maio said that the city should consider reinstating Community Action Teams as a way to generate more neighborhood training and awareness. The teams were formed in 1999 after a health department study that said Berkeley had the worst low birthweight gap between African-American and white babies in the country. Members of the teams were paid stipends to collect data and help with recommendations.

Other business

Buying power: Berkeley’s approach to Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) was debated at Tuesday’s City Council Meeting. CCA is a system which allows cities to aggregate the buying power of individual consumers in order to secure alternative energy contracts. Berkeley is examining whether to join an East Bay MUD CCA.

The Energy Commission presented a series of questions for EBMUD on the CCA, but did not have a recommendation. This put the commission at odds with the Berkeley Climate Action Coalition, which presented a list of principles for the CCA which included “procuring electricity with the highest possible ‘renewable’ attributes from sources that are located in or near the Bay Area”.

Scott Murtishaw said the commission did not agree with all the principles of the coalition. “There were conclusory statements made about the benefits of local energy which are not supported by any evidence that I know,” he said. Murtishaw said the reason why the commission had not brought a recommendation to the council was a lack of time.

The City Council agreed that the Energy Commission should reach a recommendation on the CCA at its October meeting, and the council will consider it in November. The council plans to present its recommendation to the board of EBMUD for its December meeting.

Bond refunding: The City Council also heard a report on the refunding of 1999 lease revenue bonds and 2003 certificates of participation, from finance director Robert Hicks. The bonds and certificates will be refinanced at 3.1%, providing a saving to the city of $5.1 million, including just under $1 million in the first year. Hicks also noted that Berkeley had received a AA rating on the lease revenue bonds, the highest rating the city has ever received.

For when that disaster comes, Berkeleyans be prepared [11.14.11]

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  • Biker 94703

    When is Berkeley going to mandate gas shut-off valves for any rental building with more than 2 units?  That would save more of Berkeley after the quake than some fixit kits.

  • bgal4

     My response agreeing with this post premise and providing details of past efforts was deleted. Hopefully just a disque issue and not an attempt to control content.

  • bgal4

    Several of my posts are gone! including my recent post asking if disqus is buggy again. I will repost this and see how long it last.

    Under-served or Undermined?

    I was chair of district 3 largest, racially diverse neighborhood
    group for 8 years. In 2006 we qualified for the cache by completing the
    required number of CERT classes by residents. The promised cache
    mistakenly went to the frats, Anderson did nothing to fix the mistake
    or assist.

    Anderson did complain that we focused too much on shootings and crime
    and not enough on disaster preparedness. Again, he was wrong, shootings
    and earthquakes are both life threatening events.

    Anderson is leveraging his usual disparity argument disingenuously to
    shake out money for his favored organizations, CAT and BOCA.

    He recently assisted Lorin area by providing a fee waiver for use of
    the senior center to hold disaster preparedness meetings, must be an
    election year. Thanks to Anderson, in 2009, the city changed it’s use
    policy for the recreation center where we hosted dozens of meetings.
    They now charge $62 hr for resident groups. So council members, you
    approve hourly rental rates for senior $60 and recreation centers $62
    with NO provision to support neighborhood groups use, you provide your
    special friends with fee waivers, you stipend other special friends
    (CAT, BOCA) to attend meetings and organize outreach, while you
    systemically dismantle and obstruct neighborhood groups attended by
    taxpaying residents whose expectation on public safety challenge the
    status quo.

    Half the residents who completed the CERT training have since moved
    out of the district because they grew increasing fed up with excuses,
    neglect and mistreatment by city officials.

    What this saga shows is the city council should be supporting our
    recommendation for a citywide neighborhood council framework
    administered within police beat boundaries for the purposes of disaster
    planning and crime prevention.

    But hell, when patronage keeps you in power, community service does not matter.

  • ilovesouthberkeley

    One online neighborhood organizing tool. The site says that it verifies
    address so the people posting are really your neighbors. There is a
    group in South Berkeley for the area bordered by Ashby Ave on the South,
    Sacramento St on the West, Dwight Way on the North, and Shattuck
    Ave/Adeline St on the East. There may be groups in other neighborhoods
    as well, or people can start their own group in their own neighborhood. 

  • ilovesouthberkeley

    great to see so many neighbors on here! is a great easy to use online neighborhood organizing tool. The site says that it verifies
    address so the people posting are really your neighbors. There is a
    group in South Berkeley for the area bordered by Ashby Ave on the South,
    Sacramento St on the West, Dwight Way on the North, and Shattuck
    Ave/Adeline St on the East. There may be groups in other neighborhoods
    as well, or people can start their own group in their own neighborhood. 

  • elp

    I am fascinated that none of the comments have taken Mr. Moore to task.  In all the years he has been a council member I think I have seen him at 2 neighborhood meetings (usually after an egregious shooting event). He is complaining and calling elitism and all the rest, yet he and his office have seemingly done nothing to facilitate neighborhoods coming together to get the CERT training or the cache of rescue tools. 
    While it is each of our responsibility to be prepared to the best of our ability to take care of ourselves, as a community we should also be aware of those who will need our help, and be prepared to offer that help in a safe and organized manner.  Much of this preparedness is done through neighborhood watch groups and block groups.  The district 2 council members before Moore used to come out to neighborhood watch meetings and let people know what was available and how to access resources.  This is called working with your constituency. We should demand that our council members be not only responsive, but proactive in representing our needs. If his district needs more rescue caches. He should be out rallying the neighborhoods and doing whatever it takes to make it happen.  His office can help facilitate translators and removing other barriers, but first people need to be encouraged to come together. 

  • Mbfarrel

    That hasn’t been my experience at all. I’ve never seen 15-20 college students at a CERT class, nor would I be able to tell if they were Greeks or not. I haven’t found the program to be exclusionary, but apparently others have.
    The headline calls the area “underserved;” obviously Darryl Moore is one of the primary underservers.

  • It’s a Disqus issue. I had the same thing happen to me today in a post about Measure T. Very weird. BTW, there is a way to delete posts, but you have to go into the Disqus Dashboard connected to your log in ID and delete your post from there. Sounds like you didn’t do that…and neither did I for my “disappeared” post.